Hold on to your chapeaux – starting July 1st, the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, or high speed train) will make the trip from Paris Montparnasse Station to Bordeaux St. Jean Station in only 2 hours, 4 minutes! This means that Bordeaux will now be a completely feasible day trip from Paris – oenophiles and history buffs, rejoice!
What’s there to see in Bordeaux? Of course there are the world class wines to taste, as well as the newly opened Cité du Vin – a completely interactive monument to the history of wine. Designed to resemble gnarled vines, wine swirling in a glass, and the eddies of the Garonne, this spectacular building sits on the edge of the Garonne River and can be reached by a boat from the center of town.
Besides wine culture, the city is filled with spectacularly preserved architecture and history dating back to the 15th century. Two of the oldest structures are the Porte Cailhau, one of the original gates to the city from the mid-1400s, and the Grosse Cloche, the city’s main bell tower. There is a partially restored Roman amphitheater known as the Palais Gallien, said to be built in the 3rd century AD, set amid 18th century buildings everywhere you look – beautiful white limestone facades that are crowned by a variety of faces looking down at passersby.
Bordeaux has also been the home of many iconic figures throughout history. Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henri II lived here, as well as Montesquieu and Montaigne, two of the great philosophers of the Enlightenment.
I suggest renting a bike and riding down the quais from the Pont de Pierre along the river to the Place des Quinonces and the Monument to the Girondins. The food in Bordeaux is spectacular as well – lots of fresh seafood from the nearby Atlantic, delicious foie gras, cèpe mushrooms or truffles in season – so save room for a languid, sumptuous meal.
This is a city that is worth a visit, whether you can spare just one day or several – there is a lot to see, taste and experience, and I highly recommend it!